Last week, I felt really lucky that I was able to make it to the first Quantified Self Meetup of the New Year (thanks to Nancy Gilby for the ride!). This session was held at the UMSI Entrepreneurship Center. Roughly ten folk came, and I’m not sharing names even though they said I could because I’m not sure I got the names down right. The group included a wide range of types of people: corporate folk, students, entrepreneurs, faculty, alumni, and independents. The conversation was fast, dynamic, and overlapping, so I couldn’t catch everything. I will talk about what I did catch of the IDEAS and the GADGETS. That’s what’s really fun, eh?
What the Meetup group page SAYS they are interested in (as a sampling) is pretty extensive.
“Aging in Place Technology • Behavior change and monitoring • Caregiving of digital patients • Chemical Body Load Counts • Citizen science• Digitizing Body Info • Medical Self-Diagnostics • Lifelogging• Location tracking • Non-invasive Probes• Mindfulness and wisdom tracking • Parenting through monitoring/ tracking • Personal Genome Sequencing • Psychological Self-Assessments • Risks/Legal Rights/Duties • Self Experimentation • Sharing Health Records • Wearable Sensemaking”
What’s even more interesting is what people said they were interested in as they went around the table.
- aging population
- big data
- data visualization
- legal advice
- patient communities
- personal genomics
- sleep tracking
The “legal advice” bit? That was from someone planning a wearable tech start up. They got some interesting answers on that point: Scott Olson, of UM’s Pediatric Device Consortium; SPARK; Medical Innovation Center, Fast Forward Medical Innovation, and (depending on your UM affiliation) possibly the Student Legal Services, UM’s Startup Law Clinic (Twitter), Zell Lurie Institute.
For the personal genomics, it was a great surprise to me to meet another person who knows their MTHFR status (and who also has two defective copies of the gene, AND is working on problem solving as hard as I am)! We were swapping info, apps, diet tips and tricks, formulations of supplements, and more. There just wasn’t enough time to dig as deeply into this as I wished. I did get to do my now normal rant, “23andMe was NOT killed off!”
After introductions, we just had an open conversation, much of which touched on challenges in quantified self tools. This was what had the meeting stretching WAY past the planned time!
- QS devices are not being designed for longevity, but for rapid failure
- QS devices are not being designed to actually work, by and large, which is frustrating to folk buying them early, and an argument for doing QS with low-tech self-hacked solutions
- to integrate into personal healthcare solutions, there is a need for calibration with official medical devices
- how are data measurements defined? it. “sleep” cycles based on movement, rather than REM cycles.
- desperate need for standards of measurement, to empower folk wanting to discover trends and patterns across tools, data sources, and apps
- who is funding these?
- data visualization for self-discovery; “correlation” vs aggregator apps; challenges of meaningful analysis
- HIPAA and QS: patient self-reporting data as an FDA loophole; PHI – Personal Health Information (personal sharing loophole)
- requirements for insurance coverage – need doctor’s prescription for some very useful medical devices; reimbursement codes can be tricky
- reverse innovation
- risk science, risk of failure, costs of failure
- when designing a device, think about how will it fail?
design for how to make it work or how to make it fail?
- how can small companies compete? “innovative/unique, protected, acquired”
- security, open data, hack into someone else’s data, ownership of data
Any one of these could easily be a devoted session, presentation, or series of blogposts. The bit about failure especially interested me. The idea was that these devices seem to be being designed to fail, as is pretty standard for tech in general these days. But what happens to the end user if they get to the point where they trust the wearable tech device, trust its data, and can’t tell that it has stopped working properly or is on the verge of failure? The FDA keeps tabs on what happens with medical device failures in their MAUDE database. The problem is that this only applies to devices that go through FDA approval, and most of the wearable tech devices folk use for biohacking or self-tracking personal health information, well, they are not FDA approved. People were talking about how much risk is there, impacts, and devices that are low risk. I shared a story of a time when a blood pressure cuff lead to a fatality some decades ago. That was pretty shocking to them, because we tend to think of blood pressure cuffs as being pretty innocuous. How did it happen? It failed during surgery, and kept giving normal readings when the patient was actually having trouble. The idea was that even simple tech can have serious impacts when the stakes are high and people are depending on it.
DEVICES, SERVICES, APPS, & MORE
Of course, we all had to talk about our toys, how we like them or don’t, what we’d change, what we’re thinking about buying, our experiences with customer service from the different companies, companies that are failing or expanding, new releases, etc. I tried to keep a list of devices mentioned or waved around (not all of which were pertinent to QS), but I’m pretty sure I missed a few. The same is true of services, apps, and such, but I’ll give links for the ones I caught.
While most of the gadgets mentioned were in the room and functional, that wasn’t true across the board. Some of these were mentioned as warnings (“a glorified pedometer” “gave me headaches” “out of business”), so please don’t take this list as an endorsement.
I know there was another few genetic analysis tools mentioned that I can’t remember, and I’m really frustrated that I can’t remember. Later, trying to prod my memory, I found this great list (“What else can I do with my DNA test results?“) but I’m still hoping that the person who mentioned the other tools will comment on this post with what I missed.
APPS / SOFTWARE
The apps here include tools for mobile and desktop, for data analysis, self-tracking, behavior modification, communities, and time management / lifehacking. What isn’t included is the conversation about low-tech alternatives, such as replacing calorie counting apps with photos of what you ate, or using notebooks instead of tracking apps. Quantified self doesn’t have to take a lot of money and gadgets (but perhaps that should be a separate post).
Please note that this is NOT a collection of the best ever anywhere resources on Quantified Self, but rather (as with all the other lists in this post) a collection of what was mentioned during the meeting.
Last but not least, I collected a whole bunch of links I stumbled on during the meeting in one large “OneTab” collection. It includes 76 web pages that I wanted to come back to, reflecting more details or random conversation digressions. You can find it here: http://www.one-tab.com/page/EKdC99v0Q2-nZYfOm41lOw.